Imagination Connoisseur, Bob Kowal, has become a big fan of Ben Sisko (STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE 9) because of the character’s dedication to both duty and family – a unique aspect not seen in other Star Trek commanders or captains.
Greetings, Mr. B.,
Oh Sommelier, my sommelier! It breaks my heart when I Iisten to you lament the current cheapening of Trek.
I’ve since been revisiting older Star Trek to “cleanse the palette” – STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE (ST:DS9), in particular.
I never really played the “favorite captain game”; each have their own strengths. But in revisiting ST:DS9, I’ve of come to favor Avery “Hawk” Brooks as Benjamin Silko. Sisko demonstrates all the strengths and charisma of the other captains/commanders, but with one added element – he is as equally dedicated to family as he is to duty. His unapologetic nurturing love of his son, his reverent grieving of his wife – even his visits with “Dad” flesh out his character in ways not seen with other Star Trek leaders.
At a glance, this emotional openness may make him seem more vulnerable, but we come to learn it is at the heart of his strength. This “vulnerable” openness serves as a nice counterpoint to Sisko’s “Hawk”* command mode: In this mode he is arguably more authoritative, intimidating, even cunning, than any of the Captains who are generally married to their careers. Note: When I say “mode” it’s not like there’s a flip of a switch- just trying to convey the range of his character, something Avery Brooks pulls off seamlessly.
This commitment to family also informs his approach to command. There is a “fatherly” quality in his treatment of crew and cohorts. They do not become a surrogate family as does happen in other Trek shows- They become his extended family. He manages to garner loyalty from people of disparate cultures who are NOT strictly bound by Starfleet code. People with their own unique agendas and commitments. (I’ll concede, Sisko being hailed as a prophesied “Emissary” doesn’t hurt in this regard.)
The fatherly element of Sisko’s character is particularly suited for his duties on ST:DS9. He deals with mundane daily administrations as well as cosmic crises. He never has the option to escape a situation at warp speed- He stays put to deal with ramifications of his decisions in short term, long term, even in generational terms.
All this talk about how Sisko is written would be irrelevant if the actor playing him was not up to the task. Avery Brooks may be as fine of an actor as even Sir Patrick Stewart. Maybe the only other Star Trek lead actor who could command a stage with a one man show (Paul Robeson)!
I’ll finish by reflecting on what may be Trek’s most intimate yet emotionally powerful episode; “The Visitor” (ST:DS9, Season four, Episode two). Without spoiling, the episode has both elements of brilliant sci-fi and tragic ghost story. Jake’s torment – the poignant interactions of father and son over a lifetime – Jake’s “solution” and Sisko’s response to that solution.
I get verklempt every time I think about it!
I would argue that episode could not have happened without Avery Brooks as Sisko and THIS commander’s commitment to family.
– Bob K.
a.k.a “Attic Hatch”
*”Hawk” as seen in “SPENCER FOR HIRE”